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Getting ITSM Off the Ground

Perhaps you've been reading about IT service management and figure it can help your IT organization be more effective. Now what? How do you spread the word and get a bona-fide ITSM effort off the ground? Here we look at how to make it happen.
Sep 3, 2003

Paul Desmond

Perhaps you've been reading about IT service management (ITSM) and figure it can help your IT organization become more effective.

Now what? How do you spread the word and get a bona-fide ITSM effort off the ground?

The first step, experts say, is to identify why your company needs ITSM.

Most often, one of two scenarios will indicate ITSM is warranted, according to David Cannon, chief operating officer for ManageOne, a Dallas consultancy that specializes in ITSM. The first scenario is when a company repeatedly experiences problems in a certain area, whether it's exposure to viruses or just a high level of end user dissatisfaction.

The second scenario is a company that is rapidly growing and needs to expand the services it offers, while perhaps consolidating at the same time, such as after acquisitions.

In either case, the process models described in the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), a set of documentation that describes best practices for achieving ITSM, can help the company gain control of the situation.

For Julius Tomei, direct of information technology with Philips-Advance Transformer in Rosemont, Ill., the need for ITSM arises when companies are forced to maintain or improve service levels with a flat or declining budget. ''In order to deliver a high quality of service at the right cost to the business, you have to have repeatable, well-defined processes,'' says Tomei, adding that that is what ITIL is all about.

Typically, someone within the IT organization has to sell the ITIL philosophy first to IT management.

''To do that, you need to use specific examples and show how they can be addressed using ITIL,'' Cannon says. ''Sell a specific solution to a specific problem.'' Alternatively, if the company is in growth mode, he says to position ITIL as a set of tried and true set of strategies to follow.

Selling ITIL to the broader organization outside of IT requires that you position the argument in a way that resonates with each decision maker, depending on his or her realm of responsibility. Often, the argument comes down to a cost analysis. ITIL provides tools that help IT organizations explain what it costs to provide IT services at various levels of availability, scope and the like.

''It provides a good communications framework so the business and IT sides can communicate effectively about what it is the business really needs and how much it's going to cost,'' Cannon says.

When launching an ITSM effort, Cannon recommends focusing on an area where you can demonstrate measurable results in a short period of time -- no more than three months. For many companies, Tomei says change management is a good starting point, because change is a constant in any IT environment and the source of lots of problems. ''To the degree that you can manage change, you can also manage expectations,'' he says.

Philips-Advance Transformer now has a change advisory board that meets each week to review all proposed changes and get proper approvals, following a well-defined workflow. If a major change is to be implemented on a given night, extra staff will be available the following morning to deal with any fallout. The help desk staff also will be made aware of the change.

''If something does come up, we know immediately it was the result of a change and can go look at what happened,'' Tomei says.

When his company was replacing its mainframe with a client/server setup and installing a new SAP enterprise resource planning system, Tomei says it was clearly time for a new way of doing things.

''The new world was not only going to be more complicated, we were also going to have fewer people and more parts to run,'' Tomei says. ''In order to be successful, we had to look for some degree of automation and standardization.''

He used the project as an opportunity to sell the processes defined in ITIL -- along with a set of new hardware, software and tools -- as key to guaranteeing a certain level of response time. Implementation began with a series of process improvement teams, each assigned to develop a process to the point where it is repeatable, then document it.

Change management was first on the list, but the project has since grown to where the company now has a centralized 'command center' where all appropriate personnel can view all events, trouble tickets and outages. Now, more than 90 percent of all calls are handled by the first line of help desk support, up from less than 30 percent previously.

''Because we were able to do that, it allowed us to continue to the next level,'' Tomei says. That next step, now under construction, is to give end users Web-based access to system availability and performance data, enabling them to see the impact of any outages.

No matter what specific situation an organization is in, Tomei says the important point to remember is that tools aren't what make IT tick -- it's people and processes.

Tomei notes, ''If you expect a tool to automate bad processes, you're going to get bad results.''

Desmond is president of Paul Desmond Editorial Services (www.pdedit.com), an IT publishing firm in Framingham, Mass.

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